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Drawing Flies Print E-mail
Tuesday, 26 February 2002

Drawing Flies

Ventura Distribution & View Askew Productions
MPAA rating: R
starring: Jason Lee, Martin Brooks, Jason Mewes, Carmen Lee, Renée Humphrey, Scott Mosier, Joey Lauren Adams, Ethan Suplee, Kevin Smith
release year: 1996
film rating: Three Stars
sound/picture: one Star
reviewed by: Tara O'Shea

Donner and his friends are twenty-something slackers living off welfare checks in Vancouver in the 1990s when the government gravy train is abruptly cut off. Facing the unappealing prospect of telling their landlord that not only are they still short $200 from last month's rent, but this month's rent ain't gonna happen, Donner convinces his buds to hike to his uncle's cabin in the B.C. wilderness.

What Donner chooses to leave out is the part where, while zoned out on the couch during a Six Million Dollar Man marathon, he had a vision of Bigfoot (or, more importantly, the Sasquatch) and there is a) no uncle and b) no cabin, and what he really wants to do is find a community of mythical creatures in the wilderness and join them.

Donner, played with luminous mania by Jason Lee, has had a psychotic break. However, his self-absorbed friends are a little distracted to notice. Az (Jay Mewes, best known as Jay of And Silent Bob fame -- or is that infamy?) is upset that they plan to abandon his beloved van in order to hike further into the woods, while jock-like Jake (Martin Brooks) is more interested in hooking up with sweet and lovely Meg (Renée Humphrey) and belligerent Cassidy (Carmen Lee) is intent of making everyone's lives even more miserable than they already are.

The ultra-low budget film, shot on location in Vancouver in black and white, with slightly dodgy sound which actually cuts out at several points during the film, features cameos from several View Askewniverse regulars such as producer Kevin Smith and then-girlfriend Joey Lauren Adams.

The disc is packed with extras, including both a director's cut and the theatrical cut, with cast commentary featuring Kevin Smith, and director commentary with writer/directors Malcolm Ingram and Matt Gissing. Both commentaries are entertaining and educational. The cast commentary in particular feels like eavesdropping on a large group of barely sober people at a convention panel -- this actually adds to its charm, if not its coherence. As the only cast member not in attendance, Martin Brooks is the butt of more than a few jokes, although Jason Mewes garners both praise and ribbing for his performance as Az, his first non-Jay role. There is, surprisingly, not a single "Donner Party" joke in evidence, although copious references are made to another low-budget black and white Vancouver indie shot at the same time, "Hard Core Logo," whose director Bruce MacDonald makes a cameo in one of the driving sequences of "Flies." However, the comparison only clarifies the many ways in which "Flies" pales in the shadow of its better written, directed, and produced peer.

The 2.0 stereo mix is not particularly noteworthy, although the touch-and-go nature of the sound recording in several places on the disc is disconcerting at times. It is particularly odd when the sound drops out at what appears to be the end of the first reel, which is most notable in the cast commentary, as it cuts Jason lee off mid-sentence. The company that created this DVD found the footage to be in great disrepair, which explains the spotty sound. Visually, the black-and-white shoot creates a dreamy visual quality at times --particularly in Donner's vision sequences -- but in the rest of the film, it is faintly distracting. The technical merits of the film are few, but the true worth of the disc is in seeing how far all of the parties involved have come since making it. Of the cast, Lee comes off the best, showing range and talent that would be put to good use in future projects such as "Vanilla Sky" and "Almost Famous," and in fact it was this performance which convinced Smith to give Lee a larger dramatic role in "Chasing Amy."

A film festival staple known as the "lost" View Askew film, "Drawing Flies" will no doubt become a must-own DVD for Kevin Smith devotees. However the rest of the world will be left scratching their collective heads at the poorly-paced, muddy road epic.

more details
sound format:
English Dolby Digital 2.0
aspect ratio(s):
1.33:1 (full-screen)
special features: Audio Commentary Track Featuring Directors Malcolm Ingram and Matt Gissing, Executive Producers Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier; Audio Commentary with Actors Jason Lee, Jason Mewes, Renée Humphrey, and Carmen Lee; Both Standard Version and Director's Cut; Bloopers, Outtakes and Deleted Scenes; Special Introduction by Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier
comments: email us here...
reference system
DVD player: Pioneer DV-C302D
receiver: Yamaha RXU870
main speakers: Boston Acoustics
center speaker: Boston Acoustics
rear speakers: Boston Acoustics
subwoofer: Velodyne
monitor: 32-Inch Sony Trinitron

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